Shop 7/19-25 Grosvenor Street, Neutral Bay, New South Wales
Bourke Street Bakery has become a bit of a Sydney institution, as their website will tell you itself – though there is some truth to it. They opened their first bakery in 2004, and have since expanded to a several shops across a bunch of inner city suburbs. They regularly attract rave reviews in the media, and have built a reputation as one of the best bakeries in the city. This is built on a foundation of hand crafted artisan bread, and extended with a range of cakes and sweet pastries, plus a mouth-watering array of savoury pastries.
Amongst the latter, they boast a menu of gourmet meat pies, and not one, not two, but three different flavours of sausage roll. In fact, if you search online for “best sausage rolls in Sydney”, Bourke Street Bakery comes up first in many lists. Alas, they don’t do a vanilla slice among their extensive selection of pastries, but ah well, let’s try the sausage rolls anyway. I place my order amidst the horde of hipsters and young mothers with toddlers in tow getting take-away coffees and croissants. My rolls appear on oblong white china plates, one plate per roll. I take them to the outdoor seating in the pedestrian plaza outside and shoo away inquisitively hungry pigeons as I examine the haul.
First cab off the rank is the pork and fennel sausage roll. And I must say, first appearances are not terribly promising. It looks overcooked to the point of being burnt on the ends, with blackened crunchy bits at the ends where the meat juices have leaked out. The pastry looks a shade too dark, as well as cracked and dried out from being in the warmer too long. It’s also a tiny bit smaller than one would hope for when anticipating a solid snack, and a touch expensive at $4.80. However, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” I remind myself as I pick it up for a bite.
Oh my. Appearances are deceiving. The pastry is actually fine, nice and flaky, and crisp without being dry. I presume it must have a lot of butter in it, to go this golden dark brown colour without drying out. The crunchy bits at the ends are glazed with meat juices and correspondingly rich in flavour. And the meat filling itself is deliciously moist and beautifully seasoned. There is a subtle fennel flavour, with big chunks of carrot, fresh chopped herbs, and an abundance of plump, soft fennel seeds (you can see several in the photo). This is absolutely delicious.
Next up is the lamb, almond, and harissa sausage roll. I was looking forward to this one, as I like the spicy Tunisian kick of harissa. The roll looks similar to the pork one, having the same apparently overcooked pastry, but this time dotted with poppy seeds. The underside is totally glazed with leaking juices that have bubbles and caramelised in the oven. Given the deceptive appearance of the first roll, I am now less concerned about this one as I pick it up and take the first sample.
This time the glazed crispy bits are indeed a bit burnt, having that hint of unpleasant charred taste that the first roll didn’t have. The pastry is mostly similar to the first roll. The filling of minced lamb has almond halves and raisins in it, adding a nice hint of sweetness. It’s a touch drier than the pork, but the pork was so juicy that this is still perfectly fine and plenty juicy enough. Disappointingly, it’s nowhere near as spicy as I was expecting. It’s a shame, as some chili heat would have helped a lot, balancing against the nutty crunch of the almonds and the sweetness of the raisins. The flavour is in fact more tomatoey than spicy – not bad, but I was hoping for something different. It’s very nice, but could have been so much more.
With two sausage rolls enough to qualify as a meal, I returned a day later to sample the last of the trio: the chicken, pumpkin, and tarragon sausage roll. This didn’t look quite so over-warmed and dried out as the other two, so maybe they baked all of the rolls a fraction less on this day. The chicken roll comes with a smattering of breadcrumb-like sprinkles attached to the top surface of the pastry, which add a little roughness, and make it visually distinguishable from the other two rolls. The one I have also has a lacy filigree of congealed caramelised juices attached to it.
These bits are warm and spicy and crunchy, leading into the chicken meat dwelling within the lovely flaky pastry. The pumpkin pieces are chopped quite small – I expected to see more evidence of them. But the tarragon and other herbs are big and bold, with large and obvious chunks of greenery mixed throughout. The filling is deliciously juicy and very herby, dominating over any of the more delicate flavour of the pumpkin. There’s also some spice present – I think I detected a bit of cumin, which adds a nice touch. Rounding out the three rolls from Bourke Street Bakery, this is also very nice, but again not as good as the excellent pork and fennel roll which kicked off this trio.
Pork and fennel sausage roll: 9/10
Lamb, almond, and harissa sausage roll: 8/10
Chicken, pumpkin, and tarragon sausage roll: 8/10